tagSci-Fi & FantasyEmpire Of Pleasures Ch. 03

Empire Of Pleasures Ch. 03

byPaul Lucas©

Chapter 3: The Ecstasy Mage

The stranger chuckled. "Why yes, I DO find it amusing that everyone here would run screaming for their lives if they knew the truth about even one of us. Hart here hides behind an illusion, you, Tholena, behind your unassuming appearance, and I, well..."

Tholena grimaced. "And you are hidden by a horror beyond imagining. If the situation were not so desperate I would never in my worst nightmares truck with the likes of you."

The stranger laughed again. "Odd words coming from one whose ancestors once enslaved the Known Worlds." He lifted his tankard to his lips. "You should relax more. My kind and yours are both outcasts, but apparently you still take everything so seriously. We should indulge ourselves, enjoy the pleasures of the flesh while we can. Who knows when we'll be on the run again? You've hardly touched this wonderfully pungent ale, for instance. It reminds me of a tavern in Borcharia I used to frequent a century or so ago. I was a chancellor, then..."

Tholena clamped her hands over her ears, fighting down a shiver. "I have no desire to hear who you once were. Seasons, I don't. Now are you going to help us or not?"

"I haven't yet decided. Tell me your situation again and I'll contemplate it."

Tholena shifted uncomfortably, exchanging a worried glance with her companion, Hart. The gigantic Stag-Man only crinkled his muzzle in confusion. He towered well over seven feet, sporting a huge muscular frame topped by a large and generously-antlered deer's head. He was magically cloaked in the image of a tall but mundane human laborer. Tholena worried constantly that they would stumble onto some hedge wizard or another with the ability to penetrate her amateurish spell and their mission would be reduced to the two of them running for their lives. She was expert, really, in only one type of magic. With mainstream spells like illusions she was little better than a twelfth-circle initiate.

Their table companion was incredibly handsome, a tall, raven-haired man with an easy smile and perfectly-chiseled features. He wore the cloak of a wealthy merchant, and freely tipped the serving girl an entire silver crown just for fun. He seemed constantly amused at some private joke, enjoying his role immensely. Little did anyone in the crowded tavern suspect that his kind was the fuel of sleepless nights of terror all over the Eleven Worlds.

But then, so was she.

Tholena sighed. "Very well. My apprentice, Tully, had been sent out to try and find other Ecstasy Mages and tell them of our Sanctuary in Barracca Woods. He was only supposed to travel to several nearby kingdoms. Imagine my surprise when I learned he had gone through the Gate to Zanrina here. He is a good man, but he has become so headstrong in the past few years..." She sighed. "Then I learned that he had been captured by a renegade from my Order. Tully and I have a, well, link of sorts. In certain circumstances, even if off-world, he can contact me through my dreams..."

"A spectral link." The stranger nodded, pursing his lips. "Unusual for one not of the Dreamwalker Guild. Those usually require a powerful emotional bond, such as, oh, say, true love. Hardly what I would expect from someone in your Order. A lot of animal grunting, certainly, but..."

Tholena glowered but continued. "The impressions I got from Tully paint a grim picture. This renegade knows I will come after my apprentice, as I did before, in Tragaria three years ago."

The stranger gaped, his humor momentarily broken. "That was you? I'd only heard rumors of what happened there, but if even half of them are true... Did you truly change the sex of the entire garrison and induced an orgy among them just to get at your apprentice?"

"Aye," Hart said, dipping his great antlered head to lap at his mead. "I was there, and it was hardly as easy as it sounds."

"Interesting," the stranger said, sitting back. "That makes you the most powerful of your kind I ever heard of. But if you command that kind of magic, why do you need me? It seems you could take care of this renegade yourself, or perhaps Seduce a more, heh, conventional wielder of magic into helping you."

"There's much more to it," Tholena said. "Tully is bait in a trap. The renegade wants me to come to his stronghold to capture me and learn my secrets. He's gained allies that would make that very possible."

"And who would these allies be?"

"The Order of the Body."

"Surely you and your Faerie chum there could handle a few outlaw Body Mages on your own."

"You don't understand. He doesn't just command a few over-muscled rebels. He's made a secret pact with the ruling body of the Order itself."

The stranger's eyes widened. "Their entire guild has thrown in with this renegade? I find that hard to believe. Your kind and theirs have been enemies for centuries. Why the sudden change of heart?"

Tholena's gaze drilled into his. "Because of the power he's promising them, I imagine. He wants to re-create the Empire of Pleasures, with them as his enforcers. He does not want to rely on pure subtlety, as the original Pleasure Emperors did. This time he wants the Great Seduction to be open and unbreakable."

The stranger was thoughtful for many minutes. Finally, he set his mug carefully down on the table and pursed his lips. "That's-"

A large, burly soldier banged open the tavern door, pushing a small girl ahead of him, sending her sprawling onto the earthen floor. She clutched the tattered remnants of her clothes close to her, her raven hair filthy and matted. Tears brimmed her eyes, her lip quivering. She could be no more than fourteen.

Hart rose to his feet, fists doubling, but Tholena restrained him with an outstretched arm. The last thing the two of them needed was to draw attention to themselves. If they were exposed, every bounty hunter and mage-for-hire in the region would descend upon this sleepy town on the shore of the One Ocean looking for their heads.

The soldier laughed and called for ale from the barkeep as he gathered up the girl by her arm with an iron grip. He was taller and broader than anyone in the room save for Hart and wore the badge of one of the local landholder's troopers on his leather hauberk. A few in the tavern called out his name. Gul. A regular, apparently.

He dragged the girl to the bar, and without ceremony lifted her to sit on its wooden planking. She hugged herself tightly, shivering. "Look here, lads!" Gul called to the other patrons. "Look what I got here!"

Tholena' eyes narrowed on the girl. The scratches she bore, the broad rents in her clothing, the way she shook and held herself so tightly...

Seasons, no. No.

Hart growled low, only to have Tholena tighten her grip on his massive bicep. They couldn't interfere. They couldn't. If they exposed themselves in any way...

The other patrons began gathering around the soldier, asking about the girl. The soldier just laughed. "Her father could not pay the House of ri's humble tribute. And worse, it was not the first time he had so offended one of the Potentate's most noble and generous landholders! So we caved in his skull and took the only thing of value that hovel-dwelling soil rat had on his entire plot-this winsome little creature! That should serve as a profound lesson to his flea-ridden 'freehold' neighbors not to defy their clan betters!"

Tholena's fingers dug so hard into Hart's flesh the Stag-Man started at her in alarm.

No. No, she couldn't do anything. Why, in many parts of the Eleven Worlds, the girl would already be married off and pregnant. Brutality of this sort was just the way of the Worlds, as common an occurrence as the cracking of a cooking pot or two drunks squabbling...

One of the patrons, a pot-bellied wagon driver, licked cracked lips as he leered over the half-naked girl. "What are you going to do with her?"

"Why, she's to work in the Great General's kitchens a few years to pay off her worthless father's debts. That's where I'm taking her... eventually." He gave the other patrons a saucy wink. "Me and my men already had some fun with her--ten or twelve times at least!" The last was a boast, as if he had done most of it himself. The girl's shivering intensified as the others laughed along with the soldier. "But since I got stuck escorting her to the castle, I thought I could wet my lips with some ale and make some profit at the same time. You can all have a go at her, if you want--for five copper crowns each!"

He tore off what remained of the girl's clothes, making her squeal in abject terror. Her soft chestnut skin sported fresh, fist-sized bruises across her thighs and the flat of her chest. As if large, coarse weights had writhed on top of her for hours...


Without even consciously realizing her actions, Tholena was already pushing her way through the men as they began squabbling over who would go first.

Gul noticed her walking toward him, barking out a laugh. "Ha, lad, come to get a taste of the sweet flesh? Tell you what, if this is your first time I'll shave a crown off the price!"

It was a common enough mistake, given Tholena's deliberate, glamour-crafted plain looks. Small breasts, only a slight curve to her hips, short black hair, and loose clothing could easily suggest a male just into adolescence to an inattentive observer. "I am not a boy," Tholena corrected.

The soldier narrowed his eyes, studying her face closely. "Why-so you aren't! Well, what do you want, then, wench? Join in the fun?"

Tholena's eyes slitted. "You will let that girl go. Now."

He gaped at her for a moment, stunned, then laughed even louder. Many of the patrons joined him. "And how do you propose to get me to do that, wench? Bleed all over me as I beat you senseless?"

"I am an ecstasy mage."

The laughter stopped.

The men mumbled nervously and drew back as one, leaving a broad semi-circle around the bar with Tholena, Gul, and the girl in the center. The crime of being an Ecstasy Mage carried the penalty of death by torture in almost all of the nations on all the Eleven Worlds. No one would dare claim to be one unless it was the truth.

Surprisingly, someone in the crowd found the courage to speak. "Hey! There's a bounty on ecstasy mages! All we have to do is..."

Tholena cocked an eyebrow toward the speaker. The fat wagon-driver. Without warning his hips convulsed forward violently and he collapsed backward onto the ground, his manhood quickly swelling to full erection and jetting his seed almost immediately under his breeches. He writhed and yelled as the damp spot in his clothes grew larger by the moment, a dozen and more orgasms tumbling down his large frame one after the other, each one building on the intensity of the one before. He managed to squeal out a pitiful, "S-stop! Please..." as he arced his back in a painful rictus of spasms and crested for the thirteenth time within a hundred heartbeats.

A few years ago it would have taken all of Tholena's concentration to summon such a spell. Now, after years of tutelage under the Father Trees, it was as simple as drawing breath.

The crowd drew back with a collective groan of fear. Tholena smiled wickedly. "So, you big, burly adventurers wanted a moment's pleasure by forcing yourselves on a wounded child. Far be it from me to deny you. As a matter of fact, let me give you all the pleasure you can stomach."

With a casual wave of her hand all of the men save Gul collapsed to the earthen floor as if hit by a wave. Within moments they were all convulsing and spurting into their clothing as unrelentingly as the wagon driver.

Tholena turned toward the girl's prime tormentor. Gul worked his jaw in terror. "Wha-what did you..."

The ecstasy mage shrugged. "A straight-forward ecstasy spell, inducing as much pleasure as their bodies are capable of handling. They will ejaculate themselves into unconsciousness. Do you know how painful that can be? They will be incapable of even passing water without agony for many weeks to come, I imagine, and will hopefully think twice about ever contemplating such horrors again."

She spared a glance toward her table companions. The handsome stranger's shoulders shook as he just barely held back his laughter, but Hart was already on his feet, stripping off his cloak. The girl, mesmerized by the men caught up in the ecstasy magic, started when the Stag-Man wrapped the thick fabric over her naked form. The girl hunched her shoulders and drew back from him, shivering.

"I swear I will not hurt you, or allow anyone else to do you further harm," Hart said. "I swear upon my soul."

She searched his eyes, apparently surprised by the genuine compassion she saw in them. After a few heartbeats she tentatively held out her arms for him to help her down. He did so as gently as he could, mindful of her injuries.

The girl smeared away a river of relief-filled tears along the length of her arms.

Tholena turned back toward Gul. The soldier's limbs, previously frozen by fear, suddenly found life again. He turned to run. He took only a few strides before he stopped dead and bounced back, hitting an unmovable invisible wall. He sprawled painfully onto the floor.

The dark stranger walked up, casually stepping over bodies now barely twitching, his hands still glowing from the just-cast barrier spell. His grin stretched from ear to ear. "Oh no you don't, my pungent friend. I have a feeling she has something very special planned for you, and I want to see what it is."

Tholena cracked her knuckles. "Seasons, do I."

Gul crawled toward Tholena, groveling in terror. "P-please, great sorceress, d-don't hurt me. Please. I don't understand why you're so angry. I thought your kind celebrated sex..."

Tholena nodded. "Of course we do. Sex is one of the most wonderful experiences in life. It is an act of pleasure, of passion. It celebrates joy and life, cements the foundations of love, and is the sacred spring from which all that is human comes."

Her voice turned glass-shattering hard. "But rape is not sex. It is not about love or pleasure or even lust. Rape is violence and terror and power over those weaker than you. When you forced yourself on that child, you didn't want to feel the pleasures of sex--you could have done that with your own hand, or with a prostitute, or even a willing partner, though I imagine the last proves difficult for a pig like you to find. No. You wanted to feel powerful. Is that what you felt when you murdered her father and ripped open her virginity? When she writhed in agony under you, did you crow to yourself what a master of the Worlds you were?"

"P-please!" Gul blubbered. "I-it wasn't like that!"

"That girl's tears speak volumes more than your empty words ever will." Tholena's hands began glowing as she summoned the magic to her.

* * *

The stranger was still laughing as he rode with Tholena, Hart, and the girl out of the village on the dusty caravan road. They crested a rise, and behind them the thin azure line of the near shore of the One Ocean straddled the horizon. Barely a thousand miles at its widest, it was the only significant body of water on the entire world of Zanrina. Two days' ride was all it took to leave its relatively thin zone of life and enter the scrub-grass dominated highlands and the High Desert that dominated most of the planet.

The girl rode side-saddle behind Hart on his stallion, taking obvious comfort in the close proximity of her proclaimed protector. With all that she had just been through, Tholena would have thought that the last thing she would want was to so closely hug a strange man. But then Tholena had seen the girl very tentatively, very briefly, reach up to feel Hart's antlers.

She had penetrated the illusory disguise Hart wore, perhaps from the first moment she had looked into his eyes. Tholena had heard that people who had suffered great shocks could perform such feats, their awareness heightened to extremes by their trauma.

Men were the ones who had killed her father and brutalized her body. But Hart was clearly no man. The girl could take comfort in the Stag-Man's alienness in a way she never could from her own kind, perhaps ever again.

"I have not had this much fun in decades!" the stranger exclaimed. "What you did to that oaf-it was masterful! I expected somewhat that you would change his sex, after what I heard you did at Tragaria, but I did not suspect you had the power to induce compulsions like that!"

"It was no less than that murderer and rapist deserved."

"Yes, but--horses?"

"It's true. No man or woman-or child-will ever interest Gul again. Instead, our transformed soldier will be driven into a sexual frenzy every time he--SHE, now--lays eyes upon a male horse. Her loins will burn with unquenchable desire until a stallion spills its seed in her. As she found out much to her sorrow and joy when she exited the tavern and spotted the horses tied up in the stable."

"Those townsfolk got quite a show. Well, at least she did our horses first." More chuckles.

"Indeed. I imagine she's still going at it, with as many horses in the street as that town has." The stranger barked out another round of laughter, but Tholena's mood darkened. "That will distract the townsfolk for now, but too soon word will spread about what happened to him and the others inside the tavern. Every bounty hunter within a thousand leagues will descend upon this area looking for me."

"I could simply incinerate the entire town and everyone in it," the stranger said, casually lifting a fist already glowing brightly with magic power. "That way no one will talk."

Tholena's stricken expression was answer enough. The glow in his hand died away. "Or perhaps not. I do not want our new alliance to get off to a sour start."

"So you will help us after all?"

He nodded. "Mostly for my own reasons, but also for a price I will name later. Don't worry, I won't ask you to do anything in payment that would compromise your righteous standards. And if the last hour was any indication, all this might prove very amusing indeed."

"Very well. I have little choice," the ecstasy mage said, suppressing a shudder as she reminded herself of the kind of creature she now rode next to. "Perhaps we should discuss our strategy, then."

The stranger rubbed his chin. "I've been thinking about that. The first thing we need is someone on the inside, whom this renegade of yours will not readily suspect. I imagine not all the Body Mages are happy with their Order's new alliance. If we can find just the right one, preferably someone tall..."

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